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Writing a paper on radar echoes from cosmic ray showers

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Orders to move to Bomber Command: a lucky escape
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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Then at the end of 1941, another change occurred in my life. I was summoned to the superintendent’s office, it was still Rowe, and he said- Lovell you’re to drop all you’re doing. You can hand all your data over to someone else. We’ve got another job for you. You’re to form a group to help Bomber Command. And I said- Sorry I don’t want to do so. I’d like to put my blind firing equipment in the Beaufighters. He said- so I went away. His summoned me agin the next day, accompanied by various other people and he said- Lovell you are to drop all you are doing, and I said- I don’t want to. There is no alternative. Just like that. So, I handed all my data over to someone else. Alas fortunately for me I did so. A few months later, he was testing this equipment off the east coast and against a target aircraft which was dropping window which was meant to interfere with the radar echoes, and he was shot down by a friendly Spitfire. I’m afraid it would often happen. We were flying along with these odd noses on our aircraft and we were often approached by our own Hurricanes or Spitfires, who were uneasy at seeing something strange about an aircraft.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Tags: Bomber Command, Royal Air Force, Bow Fighters, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008